The Greek island of Crete has been hit by multiple tremors Monday, with some registering as high as magnitude 6.0. The Greek government has confirmed that the earthquakes have claimed at least one life, though the actual death toll may be higher.
The Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre reports that the biggest of them, the 6.0, struck 20 kilometers south of Heraklion, a Cretan port city. Seven earthquakes in total rocked the island, though none were quite as powerful as the initial 6.0 tremor. The EMSC has warned Crete that aftershocks from the initial earthquake could be felt hours and even days after the initial earthquake strike.
The first step for the Greek authorities is going to be assessing the damage on the island. Greek Minister Christos Stylianides has announced that he will be traveling to Crete soon to help figure out what the island needs in the short term.
Most of the damage, according to social media videos and eyewitness reports, appears to have occurred in the eastern region of the island. Of particular note are the older buildings on the island, many of which crumbled as the multiple tremors shook the ground.
Many public buildings were evacuated, including schools. Rescue teams are searching for survivors as of the time of this writing, patrolling the worst-hit areas with teams of dogs. The island’s authorities have stated that inspections of modern buildings are also taking place to ensure that they’re safe to reenter.
The people of Crete swiftly responded to the quake by getting out of buildings. Social media videos show residents of Heraklion rushing into the streets as the shaking begins, eager to get away from any tall structures that could collapse on top of them.
This region of the Mediterranean is very familiar with earthquakes. On October 31, 2020, an earthquake shook the city of Izmir in Turkey as well as the Greek island of Samos. The Aegean Sea Plate, a tectonic plate that is underneath southern Greece and Turkey, butts up against the Mediterranean Ridge accretionary complex. To the south, the African Plate is being subducted under the Anatolian and Eurasian Plates, which can cause tremors.
This plate activity is responsible for more than just earthquakes. The African Plate’s subduction is also the reason for Greece’s stunning mountains, and for the creation of islands like Cyprus. In the present day, however, the plate’s role in shaking the earth is what makes it noteworthy.